Best Birds of 2015 – 80 Favorite Photos and Stories

I posted a message below on Tweeters yesterday (January 20) thinking it a good way to share some photos and mini-stories from what turned into a BIG PHOTO YEAR in Washington.  However when I pulled up the Picasa link I found that the comments did not show on the photos and they were an important part of the message.  Some readers asked if I had thought of a blog and the truth is that I had but rejected it as too difficult for my miserable technical skills.  Turns out it may be something even I can handle so I am trying it here including the photos but with the comments added.  The intent then will be to repost to Tweeters and direct interested parties to the Blog.

(Per the Tweeters Post January 18, 2015)  Although it did not start out that way, 2015 turned into a Big Photo Year for Washington Birds.  I started out to observe 300 species in state and get photos of at least 97%.  As more and more birds were seen, it morphed into a very fun but crazy year where I ended up with observations of 358 species and I got photos of all but 3.  The missed photos were of Boreal Owl, Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill.  The latter was in my viewfinder but my settings were wrong in the dim light and no photo.

I enjoyed the input, guidance and company of many great birders in the state.  Many thanks to all of them.  My first photo of the year was of the White Tailed Kite that visited Steigerwald NWR.  A photo of a Yellow Billed Loon on December 31 was photo 355 to end the year.

The photos selected for this blogpost  were chosen as favorites or rarities or for  “stories”.  Some are pretty poor and others not so bad.  I enjoyed taking them and they help me recall the experiences.  I hope they can give you some enjoyment as well.  I hasten to add that I hesitate posting any photos when so many great photographers include so many of their wonderful shots in various postings.  I enjoy them all and envy the skill and artistry of the photographers and their work (you know who I am talking about Doug, Greg and many others…).  I am at best an amateur trying to get better.  These photos are personal for me and not intended to compete … just to share and maybe provide some value or pleasure.  Enjoy.

What now follows are the selected pictures with comments/anecdotes that got lost in my earlier post,  It was hard to limit this to 80 shots but many readers will probably think that too many and they are probably right.  Most are in alphabetical order with some groupings by place but I am starting off with the first bird I took a photo of in 2015 – a White Tailed Kite – missed in Washington for a number of years.  It was one of the first birds that fascinated me in California when I started birding in 1970 so it deserves to be at the head of the list this year.

Also it is fun for me to note that there are pictures of birds from the four corners of the state (and most places in the center as well).  A Big Year requires a lot of travel – rain, wind, snow and of course gorgeous sunshine.  Birds are included from Neah Bay (NW corner), Asotin County (SE Corner), Ilwaco (SW Corner) and Bunchgrass Meadows (Northeast Corner).  We are fortunate to live in a beautiful state with diverse habitats and many wonderful birds … and birders.  Posts by the birding community on Ebird, Tweeters, BirdYak and Inland NW Birders were of immeasurable help in learning of birds, sightings and their whereabouts.  Thank you to all participants in those lists.

White Tailed Kite Steigerwald NWR January 6, 2015

My second bird of the year and first photo. I had waited for a Kite to Washington return and wasted no time when I heard one had been seen at Steigerwald. I arrived while still dark and was fortunate to find it at early light. Truly a lovely bird.

American Dipper Conconully February 15, 2015

American Dipper2

Always a crowd pleaser as it “dips” into mountain streams and disappears as it swims in its search for insects and pupae.  And the first time you see the white eyelids (are they nictitating or otherwise?) is extra cool.  Now you see it and now you don’t.

Three Toed Woodpecker/Black Backed Woodpecker Bethel Ridge June 4, 2015

Bethel Ridge is a favorite birding spot especially for Owls and Woodpeckers.  On one day this year I had every Washington woodpecker there except Acorn and Red Breasted Sapsucker.  I have not had the greatest luck finding Three Toed Woodpeckers.  On this day, however, I found nests for both Three Toed and Black Backed – a special day indeed.

American Tree Sparrow Union Bay Natural Area October 13, 2015

Over the years I have seen many new and favorite birds at the Montlake Fill (Union Bay Natural Area).  For awhile I lived across the street from this special area.  When someone posted an American Tree Sparrow had been seen there, I rushed down (as best as one can rush anywhere from Edmonds) and was treated with my best views ever for this species. 2015 was a great year for American Tree Sparrows.  On our Okanogan trip Jon Houghton and I had a flock of at least 17 at a marshy area along Cameron Lake Road.

Ash Throated Flycatcher Bear Canyon Road June 10, 2015

Although this myiarchus flycatcher is usually easily found in Washington in the summer, it generally requires a trip to the Lyle area.  The range seems to be expanding and this was a most cooperative fellow much closer to home at Bear Canyon.

Baird’s Sandpiper Midway Beach August 20, 2015

Again not a rare bird but I love this picture because it so clearly shows the posture and long wings that are my first clues that I am looking at a Baird’s.  The scaly back helps as well.

Black Throated Gray Warbler Yard in Edmonds April 16, 2015

My photo year took me to every part and corner of the state and included many relatively rare and/or charismatic birds.  What is so great about birding, however, is that great birds are everywhere including in our own backyards.  This was the only Black Throated Gray that I observed visiting my feeders – what a beauty. I have not included photos of Townsends or Yellow Rumped Warblers which also visited.

Black Throated Blue Warbler Bothell April 1, 2015

And speaking of beauties, it is hard to beat this “Eastern Warbler” that visited in Bothell this year. Even though it was seen on April 1 it was definitely not an April Fools Day joke. Great homeowners allowed visitors to see this great rarity. My first in Washington.  My earlier picture shows a Black Throated Gray Warbler and in Maine I saw many Black Throated Green Warblers.  Pretty awesome group.

Black Footed Albatross Westport Pelagic October 7, 2015

Supposedly this is an older Albatross – I get white hair, it gets white feathers. Since they live 50+ years, I wonder how many birders he has seen.

Hudsonian Godwit with Worm Semiahmoo Spit September 29, 2015  Bar Tailed Godwit Ilwaco Marina October 5, 2015

There was a report of three Godwits at Semiahmoo Spit, a favorite spot: a Hudsonian, a Marbled and a Bar Tailed. Alas when I arrived there was a single godwit – fortunately it was the Hudsonian pictured above. A photo of all three together would have been great. Oh well.  A week later, on my birthday, I visited Ilwaco Marina where earlier both Bar Tailed and Hudsonian Godwits had been seen here in large flock of Marbled Godwits. When I arrived only one rarity remained – thankfully the Bar Tailed since I had seen that Hudsonian at Semiahmoo. A lovely Birthday Present!

Black Turnstone and Surfbird Point Brown Jetty February 21, 2015

Again nothing rare but this is a favorite photo as it demonstrates how size can be tricky. The Surfbird seems at least 50% again larger than the Black Turnstone even though it is behind it. Yet the birds only differ by an inch at most. Postures and neck positioning make all the difference.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher/Hooded Warbler Neah Bay November 11, 2015

Maybe not quite as exciting as last year in the Eurasian Hobby et al frenzy, but still hard to beat Neah Bay for rarities and new species.  The non-descript fellow a/k/a Blue Gray Gnatcacher is turning up regularly in Neah Bay now and this year I finally got to see two – one there and another in Clallam Bay – new state bird and state photo. Earlier that day we were fortunate to see the Hooded Warbler that had been seen at one of the Seawatch sites just east of town.  Matt Bartels relocated the bird and Frank Caruso, Ann Marie Wood and I were able to get brief views and then finally it flew into the open on the grass for a couple of seconds giving me a chance to get this flight picture which I especially like because of the tail feather detail.

Tennessee Warbler Neah Bay November 3, 2015

Another great Neah Bay area bird and again another new state bird and photo was this Tennessee Warbler.  A terrible ID quality photo only as the bird remained buried in the thick fuchsia shrubs.  It was found by Brad Waggoner, Paul Lehman and Barbara Carlson who I fortunately ran into.  As they “pished” heavily from afar, I got permission from the landowner to move in closer.  The granddaughter was initially excited to come see our great bird but her interest disappeared when I told her it was a tiny little warbler.  She was hoping for an eagle.

Tropical Kingbird Neah Bay November 4, 2015

A regular late fall visitor to Washington – regularly seen in Tokeland and Neah Bay. One had eluded me until finding this one in Neah Bay. Two hours later – as I was on my way to the King Eider I got a call from Paul Lehmann who told me there was a Summer Tanager in the exact same tree. I was torn but decided to continue to the Eider. I should have returned. The Tanager was gone the next day and the Eider stayed for weeks.

Blue Jay Clarkston Heights December 5, 2015

A not so good photo of a Washington rarity. I coordinated with Keith Carlson. I was in the area where it had been seen the day before and heard what I was pretty sure was its call. I then got a call from Keith who said he was watching the bird – he was just downhill from me so I drove down and got some decent views. I wonder if what I had heard was the bird or was Keith calling it.

Bohemian Waxing Nealey Road Feeders November 29, 2015

White Winged Crossbills Nealey Road November 29, 2015

What more could one want– bright skies, 20 Bohemian Waxwings in the fruit trees, 50 Gray Crowned Rosy Finches on the ground below them and two flocks of White Winged Crossbills nearby. I love the Okanogan.  These were just some of the great birds Jon Houghton and I found on our first trip.  It was a great year for finches as the trees were full of cones and we saw several flocks of both Red and White Winged Crossbills.

Brambling Issaquah February 25, 2015

My third Brambling in Washington – a very cooperative bird coming to a feeder in Issaquah.

Brown Booby Edmonds Marina August 21, 2015

The Booby had been reported earlier by Josh Adams and Joe Sweeney from the Edmonds pier where they had distant looks across the Sound. I went down to Sunset Avenue and found Ann Marie Wood, Frank Caruso and John Puschock already there. We watched for 30 minutes and Frank left. As I was getting ready to leave John saw a tiny speck on a sailboat mast several miles away. It was the Booby. We raced to the Marina just as the boat came in with Booby right in front of us. Wow!  In June I was leading a trip as part of the Edmonds Birdfest that included a trip to Point No Point.  The Booby gave us a fly-by.  No time for pictures as I made sure that everyone got at least a quick look at the bird.  Wow again! 

Cedar Waxwing Wylie Slough May 26, 2015

Red “wax” on the wings. Gorgeous bird – BUT not quite as much as its Bohemian cousin.


Common Nighthawk Horn Rapids Park June 10, 2015

Birding has its disappointments but also its consolation prizes. Jon Houghton and I traveled to Horn Rapids seeking the Chestnut Sided Warbler that had been reported there the day before – a new state bird for each of us. No such luck but this lovely Common Nighthawk was indeed a great photo consolation.

Crested Caracara July 4, 2015 Skykomish Stakeout

A wonderful Independence Day present. For much of the time I was in Maine (many great birds) I read about a Crested Caracara being seen in Snohomish. I doubted it would remain until I returned. But luck held and although it disappeared for a day, I was able to find it on the 4th. Definitely a State Lifer and new Washington photo.

Dickcissel Hardy Canyon June 4, 2015

It pays to check Ebird and Tweeters and BirdYak. I was heading over to Yakima for birding there and later at Bethel Ridge when I saw a post that a Dickcissel had been seen at Hardy Canyon by Denny Granstrand. I arrived just shortly before dark and was alone in the Canyon and found the bird but in very poor light. I returned at dawn the next morning and again had the place to myself and again found this lovely visitor. On the way out I ran into Ryan Merrill who had traveled over to see this beauty.

Elegant Terns Tokeland September 4, 2015

They come and they go. In 2014 the Elegant Terns were few and far between after being plentiful in 2013. 2015 was another good year and these terns were most cooperative at the Tokeland Marina (a usual hangout) with Willets below them.

Forster’s Tern Potholes SP July 16, 2015

This was a tough bird for me this year as I missed it at several usually reliable spots. Finally I found a pair at Potholes and this one was close enough for a decent shot.

Franklin’s Gull John Wayne Marina September 2, 2015

This was THE NEMESIS photo bird for the year. I had seen one early in Monroe but did not take a photo. Later I struck out at least 8 times trying to make up for that oversight. When I got to the Marina I saw this bird with a large mixed flock of gulls on the rocky beach. I desperately had to “use the facilities” and headed for the restroom. Just before entering I snapped this single distant photo. When I got out a dog walker (off leash) was down by the gulls and they took off. Franklin was never seen again.

Gray Crowned Rosy Finches Both Forms Nealey Road Feeders February 14, 2015

One of many great observations from the WOS Okanogan trip expertly led by Shep Thorp and Fanter Lane. This photo shows both Interior and Hepburn’s forms of the Gray Crowned Rosy finches. Interestingly Jon Houghton and I had both at the same spot 9 and a half months later.

Great Gray Owl Biscuit Ridge May 20, 2015

This is probably photo favorite #2 for the year. Jon Houghton and I had the privilege of birding Biscuit Ridge with the Dennys. A Great Gray was our top priority although any trip with Mike and MerryLynn is terrific regardless of birds seen. I had heard Great Grays at Havillah and had a poor distant scope view across a field in a blizzard. No photo. Then somehow I spied this owl against the similarly gray tree trunk – I wonder if I would have seen in if its eyes were closed. Definitely a marvelous bird!!  (Earlier I had gone to Reifel Refuge in B.C. with Pilchuck Audubon and we had close up views of the Great Gray that had been there for some time.  So this was not my first Great Gray photo – but definitely my first in Washington.)

Green Tailed Towhee Biscuit Ridge May 20, 2015

Earlier attempts at photos of this Biscuit Ridge specialty had been mostly branches. in 2013 Mike Clarke and I had almost fallen downhill going to a bramble with a “hidden bird”.  Much happier with this fellow and its distinctly “green tail”.  Later Brian Pendleton, Melissa Hafting and I visited Coppei Ridge looking for Green Tails and other birds.  We came to what I thought was a promising spot and I stopped the car.  As soon as we got out we could hear a Towhee calling.  We found and got great photos of maybe 5 birds there and we found more further along the road.

Glaucous Gull Gull Wading Spot Skykomish River April 2, 2015

I had seen a number of Glaucous Gulls in Washington but never got a decent photo. On March 14 I traveled to Swallows Park in Clarkston to see and photograph one. Pretty good shots. As these things often go, that photo seemed to open the door and within the next month I photographed three more individuals including one I found in Monroe. Now if only an Ivory Gull would show up…

King Eider Ruston Way November 4, 2015

Bruce Labar kindly called me very soon after finding this gal. I was on the way back from Neah Bay and changed plans to see it. What a treat as it devoured dozens of crabs in the short time I was there. Very cool was that it stayed and provided life bird experiences for so many Washington birders.

Lapland Longspur Oyhut Game Range September 23, 2015

By far my best photo of this species. One of many at the Game Range. Someday I hope to see and photograph one in full breeding plumage as Joe Sweeney did this year. This ain’t bad though.

Long Eared Owl  Eide Road January 25, 2015

This lovely Long Eared was seen first in December 2014, It remained for several weeks and was seen and photographed by many (there were at least two owls) but not everyone behaves and the story did not end well.

Snowy Egret Post Office Lake/Knapp Lake Area December 8, 2015

I had seen presumably the same bird in the area last year but had views literally of its bill only as it did not move from behind an island for 90 minutes. This year the road in was closed necessitating a walk but about half way out I spied three white “dots” one smaller than the other two. Indeed it was the Snowy – a first Washington picture – from WAY far away.  I had expected several more hours of effort hoping to find this bird.  The relatively quick success enabled me to race off to Bateman Island – see below.

Lesser Black Backed Gull Bateman Island December 8, 2015

A truly terrible ID only picture but included because this is a relatively rare species and it was very cool to see it on the same day as seeing the Snowy Egret at Knapp/Post Office Lake. A VERY long day of birding but two great first of year birds and photos.  Grace and Ollie and Steve Pink shared the LBBG experience.

Lesser Sand Plover (aka Mongolian Plover) Ocean Shores Open Beach August 16, 2015

This has to be my favorite bird and photo of the year. I was co-leading an Audubon trip to Ocean Shores with Tim Boyer (truly an extraordinary photographer) driving the second car on the open beach past the Casino on our way off to other locations. As we zipped along somehow I saw a small group of plovers one of which had a “different breast”. Without turning off the motor, I came to a quick halt, threw open the door and without a word dashed out leaving my passengers wondering what was going on. In a small pond with Semipalmated Sandpipers was this Lesser Sand Plover. Everyone got great looks.  It sounds pretty boring compared to its former “Mongolian Plover” designation but definitely a striking bird in this plumage.  I had seen one earlier in Washington but in very drab plumage.  It was great that the bird stuck around for quite awhile as the WOS Conference began in Ocean Shores giving many a chance to see the rarity.

Lewis’s Woodpecker Oak Creek May 21, 2015

One of my favorite birding spots is Oak Creek where you can drive the road and see perhaps dozens of Lewis’s Woodpeckers – often on snags at eye level and close by. Highly recommended for birders and photographers.  This is also the place where I had one of my big disappointments for 2015.  Dusk and early darkness are great times here to hear, see and possibly photograph Common Poorwills.  That night I drove the road and heard several of these mostly nocturnal birds.  Finally I saw one in the road ahead – its eyes reflecting the headlights of my car.  As I slowed to try for a photo it took off.  Sigh…  Then maybe 15 minutes later, more reflecting eyes.  This time I was able to position myself just right with the car as a blind and I had the bird clearly in my viewfinder.  I pushed the shutter release and … nothing.  My settings were wrong in the darkness and the camera would not take the photo.  I had not reset from earlier and tried to correct this quickly.  My skills were not up to the task and by the time I was set, the bird was gone.  Lesson learned…hopefully.

Yellow Billed Loon/Ancient Murrelets/Long Tailed Duck/Pigeon Guillemot Sequim Boat Trip December 31, 2015

Following up on a great Christmas Bird count report from the area, I organized a boat trip out of John Wayne Marina specifically with hopes of finally getting a photo of a Yellow Billed Loon. We had great weather and all 20 onboard got great looks at this loon and one other. Another highlight was hundreds of Ancient Murrelets and abundant Long Tailed Ducks.  The great sun afforded a super photo of a winter plumaged Pigeon Guillemot in flight as well.

Merlin Edmonds Marsh July 27, 2015

This has been a good year for Merlins with more than a dozen seen. I enjoyed watching a couple with Barb Diehl in North Seattle and then later had this lovely photo op close to home at the Edmonds Marsh.

Mountain Quail Port Orchard Quarry July 11, 2015

Earlier I had flushed a small group at Mary Hrudkaj’s street but no photo.  Later in the year Brian Pendleton and I found this single bird at least 300 yards away at the Quarry.  Not a great photo but in the unedited original it was hardly a speck.

Northern Mockingbird Olympia Neighborhood November 2, 2015

When I arrived at this stakeout spot I wondered how anyone could ever have looked here let alone found this rather uncommon bird. When a gentleman came out of one of the houses and introduced himself as Keith Brady, a super birder, it was clear. Of all places the Northern Mockingbird had chosen this one to hang out. Thanks Keith.

Parasitic Jaeger Westport Pelagic September 5, 2015

I chose this photo both because it is a favorite bird but also because it is the only one I have taken showing the undersides of the wing, belly and beautiful head pattern. My others all are with wings down. A few moments earlier I got a photo of a Long Tailed Jaeger (not very good) and also had both Skua and Pomarine Jaeger – the so called Skua Slam!!

Orchard Oriole Neah Bay April 8, 2015

This female continued to come to this feeder from November 2014 until at least April 2015.  Getting this photo was just luck as I had not realized the bird had over-wintered and just happened to see it at the feeder as I drove by.

Northern Waterthrush Calispell Lake June 3, 2015

A favorite bird at a favorite place. Jon Isacoff first showed me this area a couple of years ago. Beautiful country and wonderful birds. Other specialties found nearby include American Redstart, Red Eyed Vireo and Bobolink. Brian and David Pendleton and I had over 60 species in about an hour this year.

Northern Saw Whet Owl Bridgeport SP December 26, 2015

C’mon – you gotta include a NSWO in any group of favorites.  I had missed one at the Park earlier on my way home from a late November Okanogan trip.  Samantha Robinson and I found this cutie by looking for owl “poop” on the snow beneath the trees.  It is still being seen there in Mid January.

Northern Pygmy Owl Chinook Bend January 21, 2015

Usually this would be a shot from the Okanogan (where for example Jon Houghton and I had at least 6 in November) but there was a pair of Northern Pygmies at Chinook Bend.  The Heibergs and I hiked around with Paul Bannick and found one of the owls providing ok photos. When we returned to the car this owl stared us down from a perch within feet of the cars.

Peregrine Falcon with Green Winged Teal Waatch Valley November 3, 2015

2015 was a good year for Peregrine photos and choosing among them was difficult. I watched this falcon swoop down and grab the Green Winged teal off the river and then with powerful wingbeats lift its prey and fly past me. Exhilirating!!  Earlier I had seen a banded Peregrine on the open beach at Ocean Shores take a small shorebird.  Very keen birds.

Red Naped Sapsucker  Washington Park Arboretum January 23, 2015

Both Red Naped and Red Breasted Sapsuckers shared sap wells in the Arboretum and provided great views for many birders.  Later Frank Caruso and I joined Bill and Deb Essman in their high clearance jeep for a great trip up into Coleman Canyon where we found this species at its nest…their more usual habitat east of the Cascade Crest.

Red Throated Loon Ocean Shores August 16, 2015

Not the greatest picture in the world but a favorite species and there is no mistaking the red throat.

Rhinoceros Auklet with Fish/Tufted Puffin Protection Island June 27, 2015

Rhinos breed on Protection Island. We often saw auklets with fish to take back to their nests. This one had more than any others. What a remarkable bill structure that enables them to hold on like this. This was the second time Samantha Robinson and I had been on this boat trip that is organized by George Gerdts.  Tufted Puffins are the main appeal and while not as many as on our first trip, they put on a show again.


Ross’s Goose Ellensburg March 25, 2015

A very poor and distant photo of this Ross’s Goose and a Canadian to give a size comparison. Usually I have seen this species mixed in with a large flock of Snow Geese. No snow geese in sight this time.

Ruddy Turnstone Bottle Beach May 24, 2015

Pretty hard to beat a Ruddy Turnstone for beauty with the Ruddy wings and red legs. Earlier in the year at Ediz Hook a winter plumaged Ruddy Turnstone worked the rocks along with Snow Buntings as we searched for the Thick Billed Murre (below).  The pattern is similar but a prime example of how showy breeding plumage can be. 

Ruff Oyhut Game Range September 14, 2015

I saw my first Ruff at Ocean Shores in 1979 (not sure cameras had been invented yet – well certainly not the world of digital photography yet).  Another last year. This one was extra fun because he was so often with the mixed flock of American And Pacific Golden Plovers.

Rusty Blackbird Crescent Lake WMA February 4, 2015

A most cooperative fellow except that he never got completely in the open. But the corn kernel makes up for that.

Sharp Tailed Grouse Scotch Creek near Happy Hill Road December 27, 2015

This was a first ever picture of a Sharp Tailed Grouse which has been a nemesis bird.  Earlier Jon Houghton and I had missed this species in the Okanogan despite looking in all the right places.  The key now was that there was snow – lots of it and Samantha Robinson and I got stuck in the snow as we pulled over to get a closer look. This was almost at the intersection with Happy Hill Road following directions Bill Brynteson had given from his success there a couple of days ago.  Getting stuck was well worth it for a photo of what had been so elusive in the past.  Very nice locals helped us get out.  Nice story.  A few days later Jon and his spouse Kathleen found Sharp Tails everywhere – life birds for both of them.

Shrub Steppe Birds Quilomene Wildlife Area March 2015

I led a fun Shrub Steppe field trip for Seattle Audubon in March with Jean Olsen.  This is a compendium of birds seen on that trip or on the scouting trip in advance.  It was great to get all of our targets.  (As an aside I often put together compendia like this using PowerPoint, a good way to show comparisons or to picture groups like Washington Warblers etc.)

Slaty Backed Gull Tacoma March 25, 2015

This is the third or 4th year for this striking dark mantled gull. This photo was from maybe 25 feet in my car on the slab next to the bridge. Sure beats distant rooftop shots.  Later there was a “probable” Slaty Backed Gull in Snohomish County – distant rooftop views only.

Snowy Owl Waterville Plateau February 12, 2015

There was very little snow in the Okanogan Highlands or on the Waterville Plateau. However there were a few small patches. This was one of 4 owls seen on a few such spots on F NW near Road 12.

Snowy Plover Grayland Beach April 24, 2015

This guy sure had lots of jewelry with bands on both legs. Unquestionably a favorite bird. I later had Piping Plovers in Maine – also a great treat.

Sooty Grouse Bahokas Mountain Neah Bay September 10, 2015

This Sooty Grouse was a consolation prize as our main quest (failed) had been to find the Red Legged Kittiwake which had been seen two days earlier.  This is a good spot in migration for Broad Winged Hawks.  I hope to give it a try this year.

Sora/Virginia Rail Wylie Slough August 6, 2015

My best photo ever of the reclusive Sora rail.  There were also 6 Virginia Rails that day.

Spotted Owl Lewis County June 7, 2015

How much longer will we be able to see these vanishing owls in Washington? Thanks to Doug Schurman for organizing the trip.

Spruce Grouse Bunchgrass Meadows October 16, 2015

This was a trip to Salmo Mountain and Bunchgrass Meadows with Charlie Desilets, Ken Hemberry and Khanh Tran. This was our only Spruce Grouse but it could not have been more cooperative. A life picture for me. We heard many Boreal Owls but sadly never could get a visual or photo.  We also had some White Winged Crossbills and Boreal Chickadees – other specialties in this remote northeast Washington wilderness.

Stilt Sandpiper  Eide Road August 7, 2015

Over the years Eide Road has been a great shorebird site. So sad that it will be destroyed as such. This Stilt Sandpiper was one of 5 I saw in Washington this year.

Thick Billed Murre Ediz Hook January 19, 2015

This rarity has returned to Ediz Hook for at least two and maybe three years. Bob Boekelheide and I studied it at length through the scope and kept hoping it would come closer. It did not. This is a highly magnified distant photo but suffices at least for ID.

Tufted Duck Marina Park February 8, 2015

There are some birds that are easily identified because the most distinctive field mark is also in their name. Tufted Duck tufts are not always this visible. Thank you on this day.

White Headed Woodpecker Kindle Lane/Umtanum Road April 22, 2015

Not the best photo but definitely a wonderful and favorite bird. I had discovered a nesting pair along Umtanum Road and saw this bird on several occasions. Nice that others found it there too when given specifics.

White Faced Ibis Millet Pond May 19, 2015

This bird was quite distant so ID photo only.  I missed this species a couple of times in past years but have now seen them more than once. Dry conditions in Oregon and California seem to have pushed them further North.  Let’s see if the pattern continues.

Western Screech Owl Whitman College Library May 8, 2015

Thanks to Mike and Merry Lynn for taking me to this little guy. As they searched the trees near the Whitman Library I happened to look up and found it sitting on the window ledge three stories up. Not the most natural setting but hey my first good Western Screech photo.  Last year (or was it 2013?)Steve Pink and I visited the Dennys and they gave us a marvelous tour.  At the end of the day they asked if there was anything else we wanted to see.  We mentioned Western Screech Owl and they directed us to a four block residential area near downtown and said just walk around and “you can’t miss”.  We walked the entire area and thought MAYBE we had heard one owl.  Disappointed we returned to the car…where in the tree immediately overhead there was a Western Screech.  You can always count on the Dennys!!

Western and Clark’s Grebes Lind Coulee June 2, 2015

You could not ask for a better comparison photo op for these two species.  Brian Pendleton and I were treated to this “Close Encounter of the Grebe Kind”.

White Throated Sparrow Norman Road January 7, 2015

I later saw dozens of these sparrows in Maine and learned their mournful song. This bird was with a number of White Crowned and Golden Crowned sparrows (and others) at the trough on Norman Road – a favorite spot to find them in Washington.  (Don’t tell anyone but there is also a Barn Owl in the nearby Red Barn…)

Wood Duck February 24, 2015

No comment necessary – just enjoy!!

Yellow Throated Warbler  Longview December 16, 2015

It took two trips to get this photo of a new Washington state bird (and a beauty).  Car trouble prevented me from finding it on the first trip but the second trip was fun and successful joining numerous other birders chasing it from tree to tree at the end of the lake.  It often came down on the ground and foraged there–other times acting like a Brown Creeper.  With thanks to Russ Koppendreyer.


There are references and thank yous in some of the individual stories with the photos.  I am sure I have forgotten some but to repeat them, thank you to:

Samantha Robinson, Jon Houghton, Frank Caruso, Ann Marie Wood, Brian Pendleton, Deb Essman, Doug Schurman, Shep Thorp, Fanter Lane, Mike and MerryLynn Denny, Grace and Ollie, Steve Pink, Russ Koppendreyer, Khanh Tran,  Bill Brynteson, Paul Bannick, Hank and Karen Heiberg, Bruce Labar, Keith Carlson, Keith Brady, Melissa Hafting, Bob Boekelheide, Jordan Gunn, Tim Boyer, Charlie Desilets, Ken Hemberry, George Gerdts, Denny Granstrand, Mary Hrudkaj, Barb Deihl, Josh Adams, Joe Sweeney, Brad Waggoner, Paul Lehman, Barbara Carlson, Matt Bartels and John Puschock.

One thought on “Best Birds of 2015 – 80 Favorite Photos and Stories

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